Yukon Transportation Museum’s executive director Janna Swales cuts out circular pieces from a pieces of plywood at YuKonstruct’s Makerspace at a community build night on Jan. 16. The museum and YuKonstruct have teamed up to build windlasses inspired by a gold rush-era tramway. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)

Yukon Transportation Museum, YuKonstruct team up to build gold rush-inspired tramway

The project is being completely designed and built by volunteers.

A project is underway to give Yukoners a taste of what it might have been like to be a workhorse during the gold rush — specifically, the unfortunate horses who powered a tramway that hauled fortune-seekers’ supplies up the steepest bits of the Chilkoot pass.

And anyone is welcome to help make it happen.

The Yukon Transportation Museum and YuKonstruct have teamed up to build, from scratch, two large-scale windlasses, with the goal of having them installed at the museum later this year for visitors to use.

The community build sessions, hosted at YuKonstruct’s Makerspace, are open to the public and entirely community-driven.

The initiative is part of the museum’s desire to have more interactive exhibits that visitors can actually engage with instead of just looking at, executive director Janna Swales explained at a community build night at the Makerspace on Jan. 16. It was the second of what’s expected to be at least three build sessions at the space before the pieces are moved to the museum for assembly.

“One of the things that I really wanted to do was work on this idea of the Burns tramway, which was a really early tramway over the Chilkoot pass — not an aerial tramway, it was just a windlass,” Swales said, referring to a tramway built by Archie Burns in 1897.

“… This windlass was powered by, and I think the poignant quote is, two wretched horses just going round and round and round.”

A windlass is essentially a winch system that, using mechanical advantage, allows someone (or some horse) to move weights much heavier than they could on their own. While inspired by the Burns tramway, the windlasses being built for the museum are not replicas.

“The plan is for it to not be a reproduction but for it to be a teaching tool,” Swales said.

When completed, the windlasses are expected to pull a cart over a distance of about 50 feet across the floor of the museum. Visitors will be able to push the handles to move the cart as well as ride in the cart itself. The handles on one windlass will be easier to push but move the cart more slowly, while the handles on the other will be harder to push but move the cart more quickly.

“The cool thing about this project is that it’s creating an interactive, but it’s doubly interactive — even the making is interactive … I think that’s super cool,” Swales said.

So far, about a dozen community members have helped out on the build, welding together the metal frames on which the windlasses will sit on, cutting out wooden circles that will become the giant spools the rope will wrap around, among other things.

Even the design and engineering of the windlasses were done by a volunteer — James Stobbs, a YuKonstruct member who said blueprints for gold rush-era trams were hard to come by, and that he basically had to start from scratch.

Stobbs happened to attend a meeting early on about the project, and, despite having never worked on something of that scale before, decided to get involved.

“It seemed interesting, it seemed different … I just wanted to do something different,” Stobbs said during a break during the build night on Jan. 16.

The process so far, he said, has involved lots of internet searches, bouncing ideas off other YuKonstruct members and learning and adapting as the build progresses.

YuKonstruct’s Makerspace director, Laird Herbert, said the windlass project fits perfectly into the “grassroots, community-based spirit” fostered by makerspaces in general.

“It’s very much driven by volunteers, so a lot of what we do is respond to what members are interested in,” he said, adding that while the Makerspace is usually just for YuKonstruct members, it’s open to everyone for the windlass build nights.

At least one more build night is scheduled to take place at the YuKonstruct Makerspace on Jan. 30.

Since the project is volunteer-driven, Swales said there are no hard timelines on when the windlasses will be finished and installed — the project will progress at whatever pace manpower and motivation allows it to.

“Once you start making the community into wretched horses,” she said with a laugh, “then they just won’t do it anymore.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker plead guilty to offences under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Couple who broke isolation rules to get vaccines in Beaver Creek fined $2,300

Crown and defence agreed on no jail time for Rod and Ekaterina Baker

X
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for June 16, 2021.… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)
COVID-19 outbreak surges to 50 active cases in the Yukon

Officials urge Yukoners to continue following guidelines, get vaccinated

Team Yukon during the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse. (Submitted/Sport Yukon)
Whitehorse will bid for 2027 Canada Winter Games

Bid would be submitted in July 2022

File Photo
The overdose crisis, largely driven by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil was the topic of an online discussion hosted by Blood Ties Four Directions Centre and the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition on June 8 and 10.
Discussion of overdose crisis in Yukon leaves participants hopeful for future

The forum brought together people including some with personal drug use and addiction experience.

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

For the second year running, the Yukon Quest will not have 1,000 mile race. Crystal Schick/Yukon News
The Yukon Quest will be two shorter distance events instead of a 1,000 mile race

After receiving musher feeback, the Yukon Quest Joint Board of Directors to hold two shorter distances races instead of going forward with the 1,000 mile distance

Western and Northern premiers met this week to discuss joint issues. (Joe Savikataaq/Twitter)
Premiers meet at Northern Premiers’ Forum and Western Premiers’ Conference

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq virtually hosted both meetings this year

The sun sets over Iqaluit on Oct. 26, 2020. Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle school came from household transmission and the risk to other students is low. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Iqaluit school’s contacts and classmates cleared after two COVID-19 cases

With an outbreak ongoing in Iqaluit, the Aqsarniit middle school has split students into two groups

An extended range impact weapon is a “less lethal” option that fires sponge or silicon-tipped rounds, according to RCMP. (File photo)
Whitehorse RCMP under investigation for use of “less lethal” projectile weapon during arrest

Police used the weapon to subdue a hatchet-wielding woman on June 4

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents.
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

The move comes in response to a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015

Teslin Lake is one of two bodies of water the Yukon Government has place on flood watch. (Google Maps Image)
Flood watch issued for Teslin Lake, Yukon River at Carmacks

The bodies of water may soon burst their banks due to melting snow and rainfall

Most Read